The Spokane Murders

  • (3 of 3)

    She will also be a voice for women whose lives many thought were not worth avenging. On Christmas Eve, 1998, citing mounting expenses, Spokane's police department pulled out of the investigative task force it had formed with the sheriff's department. That left half a dozen sheriff's deputies with double the work. Letters to the editor in the local paper suggested they give up. "You heard early on, 'Why waste time on prostitutes?'" recalled Sergeant Cal Walker, chief of Spokane's Serial Homicide Task Force. "If they had been teachers, the dollars would have flowed." As costs mounted, Sterk called a town meeting to drum up support for the inquiry. Relatives of victims spoke out, telling how their daughters or sisters, many of whom came from loving families, fell into drugs and thus onto the streets.

    Among the most outspoken was Kathy Lloyd, a Head Start teacher, whose sister, Shawn McClenahan, 37, had been found by a jogger on a weedy hillside the day after Christmas, 1997.

    A decade ago, Shawn McClenahan had gone back to college after a couple of bad marriages. A pretty woman with blond hair and green eyes, she got a job as a phlebotomist, drawing blood from patients at Sacred Heart Hospital. But a rib pressing on a nerve was misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome. After two surgeries on her wrists, McClenahan was on painkillers and unable to work. She was evicted from her home, and her teenage son went to live with her sister. She fell into heroin and, to pay for it, prostitution. Days before her death, she sent a birthday card to her sister, saying that after 67 days on a waiting list, she had finally been accepted for methadone treatment. "God, I am so happy," she wrote. "This nightmare is almost over."

    The nightmare ended with her murder.

    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. Next Page